Lebanese security seek central bank chief for court hearing - source, media

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks during an interview for Reuters Next conference, in Beirut, Lebanon November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir//File Photo

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese security personnel sought on Tuesday to bring central bank governor Riad Salameh in for a court hearing that a judge had ordered him to attend, but were unable to locate him, according to a senior security source and local media.

State Security, one of Lebanon’s main agencies, looked for Salameh in three locations, including two personal residences outside Beirut and his office at the central bank in the capital, according to the source and Lebanon’s LBCI TV.

Judge Ghada Aoun had issued a subpoena for Salameh on Feb. 1 after he failed to attend three hearings as a witness in investigations into his alleged misconduct at the central bank, which includes accusations of fraud. He faces several other investigations in Lebanon and several European countries.

Salameh, who has denied wrongdoing and described accusations against him as politically motivated, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Tuesday.

He has previously accused Judge Aoun of bias and has sought her dismissal from investigations against him.

Aoun told Reuters Tuesday she had indefinitely extended the subpoena until it is implemented. She will continue to legally pursue Salameh, she told Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen.

Salameh’s nearly three decades at the helm of the Lebanese central bank have come under increased scrutiny since the country’s financial meltdown in 2019.

He is being investigated in Lebanon and several European nations including Switzerland for alleged money laundering and embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars at the central bank - allegations he has repeatedly denied.

Salameh retains the support of powerful figures including billionaire Prime Minsiter Najib Mikati, who has said the veteran central bank chief should remain in his post while Lebanon battles its economic crisis.

Reporting by Laila Bassam and Timour Azhari; editing by Aidan Lewis and Mark Heinrich